A Faith in Fear Alone

Blog_Faith in Fear AloneFear is the thing holding humanity back from transforming the earth into a place centered around love. Fear is the most powerful force apart from love. In a world bombarded with fear it is easy to allow fear to run our daily lives without even recognizing we are doing so. “I put my faith in Jesus alone,” is a statement Christians often make and I think a large majority of them genuinely believe they do. Faith is not simply belief though. It is in waking up to the fact that if our life is driven by fear, no matter what we intellectually claim to believe, it will be insufficient as a means of moving forward towards something better.

From early on in our lives we begin to adopt fears that over time slowly change our behaviors so we can better avoid our fears. We are abused by a person who was supposed to love us…We fear being hurt again…We lose our ability to trust. We lose a loved one to death or divorce…We blame ourselves…We push people away. We fail…We fear not being good enough…We don’t dare to venture outside our comfort zone. This list arises because of people, events, and past memories and covers a small fraction of the things that could be on this list. There is another dimension to our fears though.

Society thrives off of fear. Without fear-based marketing, public relations campaigns, and advertising, corporations wouldn’t be the center of wealth and power in our culture; in fact, I would contend they likely wouldn’t exist at all. Day in and day out we are bombarded with messages that tell us over and over again, “You are not good enough.” Our bodies are lacking in every way imaginable. Our clothes are no longer in fashion. Our houses are too small. Our families are not ‘put together’ compared to the rest. Our marriages don’t involve constant sex, void of arguments or painful struggles. Our kids aren’t in the best school…aren’t involved in enough activities…or don’t measure up in their academics. Our jobs aren’t prestigious enough. Our neighborhoods aren’t safe. Our world is on the verge of an apocalyptic catastrophe. (Of course, the kind of catastrophe depends on what the media has chosen to splash over their 24-hour-a-day running fear-casts.)

Fear cannot be avoided. It is instilled in us at far too young an age and reaffirmed millions of times a day through media, entertainment, and corporate america. This unavoidable force is not—cannot be—the final answer. Fear will not be the ultimate victor, because its component crushes fear simply by showing up on the scene. The journey to conquer fear in love cannot be a passive one. Conscious strides to identify, call out, and push against the fears that bind us is of utmost necessity.

Looking back on my own life I can identify the very moment at which my greatest fear was realized. I was in my mid-20’s. I had battled drug addiction, a myriad of unhealthy and abusive relationships—which at the time I was still battling against. During this period in my life, I was fond of berating myself in front of a mirror. It felt more fulfilling, as if I could feel more deeply the punishment in which I was afflicting on myself. “No one will ever love you. You don’t deserve to be loved.” For whatever reason, on that day as I looked in the mirror, I was overcome by something I had never recognized before—the thing I had been perpetuating within me all these years was a lie. If it was only found in God alone, I was worthy of love–we are all worthy of love. God is never disappointed in us. God will never reject us. His love is all encompassing. His love is unconditional. And His love is this way, because He cannot be any other way, because HE IS LOVE.

And it is love—this agape love—which Jesus has given us the power in finishing what he began by eradicate fear once and for all.

Within each of us there is both a fear and a possible freedom from that fear. Maybe you can already name your fear/s. Maybe you need to ask yourself what is truly driving your daily actions and life. We must gain understanding about ourselves, in order to use that knowledge going forward. Identify the fear. Label it as a lie (no matter how difficult it may seem). Then start taking notice of when that feeling of fear rears its ugly head. Call it stupid, evil, and unwelcome. Replace it with the exact opposite thought, which can only be one of love. And then prepare yourself to lather, rinse, repeat this process on a daily basis (on some days an hourly basis), because until an agape-centered unity is established among humanity our battles with fear will continue. This is not reason to lose hope! It is the very best reason to stand strong on the side of victory and commit to living out a reality that displays a faith in love alone.

The remedy for fear is love …. Fear is a slow, solidified energy that needs to be unwound with love.” Michael Harrington 

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Let’s Play Pretend

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In my previous post I encouraged my readers to take part in a meditation practice. The practice allowed us to create a vivid image of a perfected world. To imagine and visualize as concretely as possible a newly painted canvas of the world. To recall this image and continuously reform, reshape, and renew it.To begin to hope that the existence of such a world is truly possible. However for this practice to begin to take form beyond our imaginations and out into the world, unity is required. For humanities hope to slowly begin to transform all that we see around us there must be agreement about the object and aim of our future. Our hope must be directed towards and centered around a universal objective to become realized on earth today.

I want to suggest that our vehicle and object of hope is love. Love is the thing we must be directed towards and centered upon. The kind of love we see perfectly displayed in Christ. In Christ we find a concrete, vivid image of true love. Jesus is the exact representation and image of God. And God is love. The person, teachings, actions, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the thing that displays for us a love capable of transforming our world. The cross becomes the center of all our hope. It was on the cross that an entire new reality was inaugurated upon the earth. Through the cross humanity was given the potential to become the hope of the better world we envisioned. The resurrection made way for the Kingdom of God to be made manifest today–on the very soil in which you are standing. On the cross, all those things we removed in our imaginations from the dark and broken world have already been overcome. Our job is to see such a world. Our job is to live it out as if it was real right now.

Problems arise because this new and perfected Kingdom isn’t always obvious. In fact, more often than not it is completely hidden. (This topic is discussed in a sermon by Greg Boyd that I would recommend). Our image of a world centered around perfect love must be the hope we hold on with all our might. Without hope–without possessing a faith aimed towards perfect love–transformation will be impossible. If we lose hope, if we give up on the possibility of perfect love, and rather become convinced that the ugliness we see in the world today is the best we can do this side of death, we are screwed. In the book Courage to Be, Paul Tillich talks about such hopelessness; “Despair is an ultimate or “boundary-line” situation. One cannot go beyond it. Its nature is indicated in the etymology of the word despair: without hope. No way out into the future appears.” If we do not imagine ourselves becoming something better, by uniting in a common hope, we are essentially condemning humanity to an end defined by fear. Lucky for us, our hope, our direction, our objective is perfect love–the only thing capable of eradicating fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

Everyone is an Evolutionist!

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There is a large number of the human race, myself included, who believe that the earth was not created in a literal seven days as depicted in the Bible. Instead, there are those who have chosen to adhere to a worldview that regards the creation of the universe as being part of a very long [and ongoing] process. This creation began long before human life came into existence and the process to get there is incomprehensibly long. Then there are other people who believe the world was created in a way that more closely reflects the creation narrative in Genesis 1-3. This group does not agree upon all the specifics of the way or nature this creation account took place, which also applies to those whose own scientific understanding of how the universe has evolved to this point. In my opinion, no matter which camp each of us finds ourselves should not be of importance. At their core, both those who call themselves evolutionists and those who call themselves creationists rely on the same means by which to understand the reality in which we exist. This concept is rooted in the notion of becoming. Both individually and corporately, we are aware of the truth that we have been something other than what we find ourselves to be in the present moment and recognize we are becoming something that will differ in the future.

From a scientific point of view this process of becoming is rooted in the physical universe. Those from the religious background regard the process of becoming within a spiritual nature. Evolutionists rely on facts, those things capable of being studied, and proven though experimentation. Those who believe in God (I would contend regardless of their understanding of creation) rely on their faith in the unseen conscious (or spiritual) self as becoming transformed. What if we focused on the areas we agree upon—if even for a moment? What if we agreed to temporarily let go of what we have been and together attempt to agree on where we are going? There is no one that can disagree that yesterday cannot be changed and likewise no one who can assert that tomorrow is decided. The past is gone. The future is yet to be.

“Forget the former things; 
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! 
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness 
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

I believe besides agreeing in a future that looks different than today, there is another point of unity we can find between the religious and scientific communities. A place where all of humanity can find a general, although possibly somewhat ambiguous, coherence. I want to believe most of us could imagine or hope that there is a better way to live that humanity has not yet achieved. I will admit there are exceptions to this, but I think they are the minority. It is in regards to this idea that I want to request some of your time…Give yourself some time and space to imagine the world in its present state. Then begin to remove any and everything that you would if you could. Each time you restore something that is broken or rebuild the ruined or remember the forgotten—as you renew the earth begin to see it in your imagination in this new way. Begin to let that deep resonating longing of your heart to be set free. Don’t allow fear of any kind hold you back from dreaming up even those things that seem impossible. Stay conscious of the tendency to fall into negativity, and any time you sense it happening, gently but slowly bring your mind back. Think globally to divert selfish inclinations (something we all are naturally inclined to).

No hunger. No illness. No evil. No bullies. No suicide. No pollution. No depression. No hatred. No greed. No wars. No murder. No insecurities. No divisions. No violence. No sexual abuse. No disabilities. No exploitation. No anxiety. No fear. Then add more of the things that make life beautiful. More joy. More kindness. More grace. More scientific advancements. More intimacy. More creativity. More generosity. More beneficial communication. More growth. More freedom. More vitality. More trust. More healing. More energy. More forgiveness. More laughter. More love.

Try it. Imagine it. Visualize it. Hold onto it for dear life. Fall crazy in love with it. And when that crazy love roots itself inside you, I dare you to begin to hope for it. In fact, I am pleading with you—have hope.

In His Own Words: Teilhard on Hope Matters

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In a previous post I spoke about how too often Christians live a life of hope that tags on a “but” at the end of it. Here are some excerpts on this topic written by Teilhard in a book titled, Hymn of the Universe–an amazing compilation of some of his more poetic writings.

“‘“O ye of little faith,’ why fear the onward march of the world or become distant to it? Why foolishly multiply your prophecies of woe and your prohibitions: “Don’t venture there; don’t attempt that; everything is already known that can be known; the earth is grown old and stale and empty; there is nothing more for us to find. . .On the contrary, we must try everything for Christ; we must hope everything for Christ. Nihil intentatum (to leave nothing un-attempted) that is the true Christian attitude. Divinization means not destruction but super-creation. We can never know all that the Incarnation still asks of the world’s potentialities. We can never hope for too much from the growing unity of mankind.”

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Hope is a necessity if our joy is to be complete. … I want [hope] because I cannot help loving all that your constant help enables me each day to bring into being. A thought, a harmony, the achievement of a perfection in material things, some special nuance in human love, the exquisite complexity of a smile or a glance, every new embodiment of beauty appearing in me or around me on the human face of the earth: I cherish them all like children whose flesh I cannot believe destined to complete extinction. If I believed that these things were to perish forever, would I have given them life? The deeper I look into myself the more clearly I become aware of this psychological truth: that no mm would lift his little finger to attempt the smallest task unless he were spurred on by a more or less obscure conviction that in some infinitesimally tiny way he is contributing, at least indirectly, to the building up of something permanent—in other words, to your own work, Lord.

Teilhard, . C. P. (1965). Hymn of the universe. New York: Harper & Row. p. 114-115, 134-135

A Response to Jim Inhofe: Does God give us power to create change?

Pin_InhofeI have this terrible habit of becoming too accustomed to my own beliefs—I suppose we all do. We too often surround ourselves with like minded people, watch the news channel we deem as the most fair and balanced, and its rare that we willingly challenge our worldviews. The reason we do this is because having your worldview challenged isn’t easy. Changing our worldview is to change our whole of reality. It is scary, emotional, time-consuming, and requires intentionality. And why would anyone want to intentionally seek out new information so they can find out that which they thought was truth wasn’t such a black and white issue after all? I have found that most often people undergo a worldview shift during a traumatic life event (this was me after my late husband’s death), an environmental change (attending college or traveling the world), or by experiencing a revelation (be it religious or not). As difficult a task as it may seem, challenging what we have always believed to be true is what causes us to grow as people. To open our minds and hearts to the ideas and beliefs of those around us, we are in essence creating for ourselves a bigger world to take part in. Too many times in my life, I have been guilty of the same thing. We seek comfort, convenience, and the path of least resistance.

As I have begun to write over the last couple weeks about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with my hopes set on challenging some views about our world to those reading, at times I begin to panic. I am so immersed in my own worldview—in what I believe, how I regard the world, and where I think that is taking humanity—I begin to think everyone is on the same wavelength as me. Things that have become natural to me start to transform into the things I believe are obvious to everyone. This is a dangerous place to put yourself. Not only will you inevitably end up hurting someone at some point with your assumptions, but you will also hold back from helping others to expand their worldviews and potentially see a new possibility (or vice versa). So it is a fine line … don’t assume others believe what you believe, but don’t hold back from engaging others because you think they already see the world the same way you do.

I have feared this is what I’ve been doing in this series. That those things I am desiring to write about are obsolete or obvious. There is no question in my heart that God is leading and directing me in this work, but my fears of stating the obvious are trying to silence me. Then I read about Senator James Inhofe. So much could be said. The environmental issues the world is facing will be a topic I intend to cover in this series, so I want to avoid it until I am able to lay some groundwork for my opinions. Even though I won’t be discussing Inhofe and the environment in particular, I do want to examine the most publicized of his noteworthy quotes from over the last few years that has recently resurfaced as he prepares for his new role in office. It was this quote that reminded me God does have a bigger world for all of us to open our eyes to and my fears of bringing forth a wealth of obsolete ideas couldn’t be further from the truth (and I feel assured that regardless, it is not my concern if I am following a call to do so).

While we all know Inhofe is clearly an extremist when it comes to his views on climate change, I’m afraid his biblical conclusions regarding God and humanities role in creation aren’t quite as uncommon among Christians. The following was taken from an interview Inhofe did in March 2012, he said;

My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

The underlying message Inhofe is conveying is sadly one I believe many Christians would agree with if they were to lay all their cards on the table. As Christians, we do that which we feel called or conditioned to do … for some this means to live as righteously as possible, follow laws, go to church, tithe; for others it means loving your neighbor, ushering in the Kingdom, feeding the poor; for others it means both …. BUT … regardless of what we are called to do, the message we give to the world is Christians do not—in fact, cannot—truly bring change to the kingdom of darkness now enveloping this earth. In my opinion this viewpoint opposes the message Jesus came to bring. The good news is better than do good, love lots, give generously … but don’t expect heaven to come crashing down when you do.

Believing this leads to the way you lead your life, convey the gospel to others, and worse puts the Incarnate Christ in a box! I think we have forgotten the power of the Holy Spirit left behind to help us. I think we have failed to recognize free will is more than just choosing to do one thing or another, it is choosing to create with God, bring about the Kingdom of God, and participate in His gift of giving us the opportunity to cause change! Pray for this, set your hope on it, and ask God to reveal the ways you see the world and your faith in too small of a way.

(Quote taken from: Tashman, Brian (8 March 2012), “James Inhofe Says the Bible Refutes Climate Change“, Right Wing Watch, retrieved on 2012-03-13)